KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand). From the 1982 TV series “Knight Rider,” KITT was the brain and operating system of a heavily modified Pontiac Trans-Am, voiced by William Daniels, who was simultaneously starring on “St. Elsewhere” and wisely asked not to be credited in this series. This series starred David Hasselhoff.
Master Control Program. “TRON,” from 1982, was the first motion picture to use computer-generated imagery throughout. A human programmer gets trapped inside a computer world and discovers that programs are self-aware. He must get to the Master Control Program—a gigantic operating system with a very bad attitude (no jokes please, we know what you’re thinking)—and disable it if he is to escape back to his own world.
WOPR (War Operations Plan Response). Once again, some idiot thinks it would be a terrific idea to put the nation’s nuclear arsenal under the control of a supercomputer. In John Badham’s 1983 movie “War Games,” a teenage (of course) hacker gets online access to the WOPR system and invites it to play Global Thermonuclear War, but after running through all the various scenarios, WOPR wisely realizes that thermonuclear war is a very strange game: “The only winning move is not to play.”
Banana Jr. 9000. In 1984, Berkeley Breathed parodied the first generation of Macintosh computers with the Banana Jr. 9000 in his comic strip “Bloom County.” The computer is also known as the Banana Jr. 6000.
Edgar. In the 1984 movie “Electric Dreams,” a personal computer (named Edgar) gets into a love triangle with its owner and an attractive neighbor who plays the cello. While the movie itself is mostly harmless and not on anyone’s must-see list, the soundtrack remains extremely listenable, especially the signature track, “Together In Electric Dreams” by Phil Oakey.
Skynet. Doesn’t anyone ever pay attention?! Didn’t we learn anything from “Colossus” and “War Games”?! Once again, in James Cameron’s 1984 film “The Terminator,” some deranged descendant of Dr. Strangelove thinks it would be a terrific idea to put the nation’s high-tech military resources and nuclear weapons under the control of a supercomputer, which promptly wipes out most of the human race. A small band of rebels, led by John Connor, remains to fight Skynet, so Skynet starts sending super-robots called Terminators back through time to kill Sarah Connor before John is born. For a supercomputer, it sure isn’t very smart. Four films and a TV series later, it still hasn’t managed to finish the job.
Neuromancer and Wintermute. In William Gibson’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel from 1984, “Neuromancer,” it is illegal to build machines that can pass the Turing test. To get around this, the Tessier-Ashpool dynasty creates Neuromancer and Wintermute, each only one-half of a super-AI entity. The novel ends with the combined Wintermute/Neuromancer intelligence discovering another AI transmitting from Alpha Centauri.
Max Headroom. First appearing on British TV in 1985, then in an American television drama, Max is a super-stylized artificial intelligence, visible only on TV screens. Max exists in a surreal universe of his own and speaks in staccato and sometimes incomprehensible raps. A visionary show, at least a decade ahead of its time.
Holly. “Red Dwarf” was a BBC comedy series from 1988 set on a huge 22nd century mining ship, six miles long. A radiation leak kills everyone on board the Red Dwarf except David Lister, a technician held in suspended animation. Three million years later, after the radiation has died down, the spaceship’s computer, Holly, finally thaws him out. Holly also resurrects his former bunkmate as a hologram. The rest of the crew is evolved from the offspring of Lister’s pregnant cat during the three million years that Lister was in stasis.
Ziggy. The unseen computer from “Quantum Leap.” Voiced by co-executive producer, Deborah Pratt, Ziggy runs the project and tries to figure out the purposes of Sam Beckett’s (Scott Bakula) weekly leaps. Ziggy was finally revealed in the fourth season.
Solace. Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Spider Robinson has published multiple science fiction stories and novels taking place in “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon,” noteworthy as a nexus for bizarre aliens, mirror-world realities, lost time-travelers, and other displaced entities who need help and healing. Solace is a distributed intelligence, accessible via a possessed Mac. (Yes, we know that last part is hard to believe.)